Favourite C.S. Lewis quotes
I guess it’s no secret that I think C.S. Lewis is a genius. While I don’t normally think in terms of literary heroes, if I were to compile a list, I’m guessing Lewis would be vying for top spot with John Bunyan.
It’s not often you find an author with whom you feel completely safe, and by this I mean that you trust their judgment not to cleverly lead you into weird places where you have to pick apart the beautiful form of the composition to realise that you’re being served up a plate of nonsense. I feel safe reading his writings because I always feel the place he’s leading me towards is good and true.
Lewis, it seems to me, writes with a pen dipped in the ink of wisdom and then blotted on a page of rainbow glitter. He is profound, unpretentious, and a master of the simple, expressive phrase and image. His skill is so far above mine that I’m set free as a writer from envying his talent – I simply sit back, relax, and feel appreciation that I can read what he wrote!
Here are some of my favourite lines from him. It’s far from an exhaustive list – he wrote so prolifically, and I’m sure that as soon as I click the “publish” button I’ll think of another one I should’ve included! Please feel free afterwards to share with me your favourite Lewis quotes. 🙂
- There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb and he almost deserved it.
From The Horse and His Boy:
- Do not dare not to dare.
- Shasta was dreadfully frightened. But it suddenly came into his head, “If you funk this, you’ll funk every battle all your life. Now or never.”
- Aravis also had many quarrels (and, I’m afraid even fights) with Cor, but they always made it up again: so that years later, when they were grown up they were so used to quarreling and making it up again that they got married so as to go on doing it more conveniently.
I don’t know where this one is from. Perhaps Mere Christianity? But really, I’m not sure. (Please let me know if you know its origin!) It goes something like this:
- You smile at a girl when you’d seen a hole in her stocking and she smiled back in just the same way, as much as to say ‘Yes I know. Isn’t it a scream.’
- We read to know we are not alone.
From An Experiment in Criticism:
- But in reading great literature, I become a thousand men and yet remain myself.
- The first demand any work of art makes upon us is surrender. Look. Listen. Receive. Get yourself out of the way. (There is no good asking first whether the work before you deserves such a surrender, for until you have surrendered you cannot possibly find out.)
- A work of (whatever) art can either be ‘received’ or ‘used’. When we ‘receive’ it we exert our senses and imagination and various other powers according to the pattern set by the artist. When we ‘use’ it, we treat it as assistance for our own activities. The one, to use an old-fashioned image, is like being taken for a bicycle ride by a man who may know roads we have not yet explored. The other is like adding one of those little motor attachments to our own bicycle and then going for one of our familiar rides.
I’m not sure where these two quotes are from:
- Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.
- The love of knowledge is a kind of madness.
FAITH & CHRISTIANITY
- Joy is the serious business of Heaven.
- Has this world been so kind to you that you should leave with regret? There are better things ahead than any we leave behind. [Woohoo!]
- God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.
- A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell.
- How monotonously alike all the great tyrants and conquerors have been: how gloriously different the saints.
- If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.
- If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.
- A man who is eating or lying with his wife or preparing to go to sleep in humility, thankfulness and temperance, is, by Christian standards, in an infinitely higher state than one who is listening to Bach or reading Plato in a state of pride.
I’m still pondering this one, as it’s a new thought to me:
- Some people feel guilty about their anxieties and regard them as a defect of faith but they are afflictions, not sins. Like all afflictions, they are, if we can so take them, our share in the passion of Christ.
From The Problem of Pain:
This signature on each soul may be a product of heredity and environment, but that only means that heredity and environment are among the instruments whereby God creates a soul. I am considering not how, but why, He makes each soul unique. If He had no use for all these differences, I do not see why He should have created more souls than one. Be sure that the ins and outs of your individuality are no mystery to Him; and one day they will no longer be a mystery to you. The mould in which a key is made would be a strange thing, if you had never seen a key; and the key itself a strange thing if you had never seen a lock. Your soul has a curious shape because it is a hollow made to fit a particular swelling in the infinite contours of the Divine substance. Or a key to unlock one of the doors in the house with many mansions. For it is not humanity in the abstract that is to be saved, but you—you, the individual reader…
All that you are, sins apart, is destined, if you will let God have His good way, to utter satisfaction…. God will look to every soul like its first love because He is its first love. Your place in heaven will seem to be made for you and you alone, because you were made for it–made for it stitch by stitch as a glove is made for a hand.
From “The Weight of Glory” in The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses:
We want something else which can hardly be put into words – to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it. That is why we have peopled air and earth and water with gods and goddesses and nymphs and elves – that, though we cannot, yet these projections can enjoy in themselves that beauty, grace, and power of which Nature is the image.
That is why the poets tell us such lovely falsehoods. They talk as if the west wind could really sweep into a human soul; but it can’t. They tell us that “beauty born of murmuring sound” will pass into a human face; but it won’t. Or not yet. For if we take the imagery of Scripture seriously, if we believe that God will one day give us the Morning Star and cause us to put on the splendor of the sun, then we may surmise that both the ancient myths and the modern poetry, so false as history, may be very near the truth as prophecy.
Also from “The Weight of Glory” in The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses:
If we are made for heaven, the desire for our proper place will be already in us, but not yet attached to the true object, and will even appear as the rival of that object…
In speaking of this desire for our own far-off country, which we find in ourselves even now, I feel a certain shyness. I’m almost committing an indecency. I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you – the secret which hurts so much that you take your revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence…
Our commonest expedient is to call it beauty and behave as if that settled the matter. […] The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing.
These things – the beauty, the memory of our own past – are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself, they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshipers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune and we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited. Do you think I am trying to weave a spell? Perhaps I am; but remember your fairy tales. Spells are used for breaking enchantments as well as for inducing them. And you and I have need of the strongest spell that can be found to wake us from the evil enchantment of worldliness which has been laid upon us.
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